Copper Climbs as Trade Worries Abate

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Copper prices surged Tuesday after Chinese President Xi Jinping promised foreign companies greater access to China’s financial and manufacturing sectors, pledging Beijing’s commitment to further economic liberalization amid rising trade tensions with the U.S.

Front-month copper for April delivery added 1.9% to $3.1310 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange—its highest close since March 14. Prices of the industrial metal have fallen 4.5% this year but rebounded of late with gains in eight of the last 10 sessions, as some investors bet that anxiety over a possible trade war between the U.S. and China was overblown.

Some analysts fear protectionist trade policies will lead to higher manufacturing costs and slower economic growth, crimping demand for copper and other raw materials.

On Tuesday, Mr. Xi quelled some of those fears by saying China would increase imports, improve the protection of intellectual property and provide a more transparent, rule-based environment for foreign investment.

Some investors think recent announcements by the country and the U.S. of tariffs on a wide range of products might be negotiating tactics and that both parties will eventually reach a compromise.

Despite a slow start to the year for copper, some bullish investors expect steady demand as energy efficient infrastructure takes hold around the world and a lack of new mining investments to boost prices moving forward.

“The underlying fundamentals are still all there,” said Leigh Goehring, managing partner at G&R Associates,

Analysts have also been keeping an eye on economic data out of China, the world’s largest copper consumer. Lukewarm data to start the year helped send copper to its first quarterly decline since 2015 last quarter, but a gauge of manufacturing activity recently showed an uptick in production in March.

Metals tied to Russia extended their Monday gains following U.S. sanctions on Russian companies. Aluminum climbed 2.9% on the London Metal Exchange, while palladium added 1.9% in New York. Russia is a major supply source of both metals, and the LME on Tuesday announced a trading suspension on metal from the world’s second-largest aluminum producer, United Co. Rusal, adding to supply worries.

“The U.S. sanctions against Russian oligarchs and their companies are continuing to keep the markets on tenterhooks,” analysts at Commerzbank said in a note to clients.

Among precious metals, front-month gold for April delivery inched up 0.4% to $1,342.00 a troy ounce. Prices have stayed between about $1,305 and $1,360 this year, with safe-haven buying, moves in the dollar and interest-rate worries dictating swings within that range.

A weaker dollar makes gold and other dollar-denominated commodities cheaper for overseas buyers. On Tuesday, the WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 other currencies, was down 0.1%.

—David Hodari contributed to this article.

Write to Amrith Ramkumar at amrith.ramkumar@wsj.com and Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com


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